We all jumped into motherhood knowing those first few months were going to be exhausting. Around-the-clock feeds, diaper changes, possible colic or reflux, adapting to our new roles, family transitions, etc. It’s A LOT and rightfully is an extremely trying season of life and parents need all the grace and support they can get to get through.
However, for some families, those sleepless nights and endless days drag on beyond the newborn phase. We all think that our baby’s sleep will get better on its own, right? Surely by 4 months, or 6 months, or definitely by 9 months, your kiddo will be sleeping better. They have to be. But when that doesn’t happen, it must be 12 months than when they wean. Or when they move to a toddler bed?
The hard reality is that not all babies simply grow out of their sleep problems. In fact, 85% of babies who don’t sleep well turn into toddlers who don’t sleep well.
Sleep is not something we just have to hope, pray, and wait to get. There are things you can do tonight to encourage longer stretches (or full nights!) of sleep for your little one.
5 Tips for Better Sleep
1. Commit to an early bedtime.
The best time to put your baby or toddler to bed is sometime between 6 and 8 o’clock in the evening, depending on their age, schedule, and sleep needs. An early bedtime ensures that your child will be able to get a solid 11-13 hours of sleep during the night. Children need that much sleep up until about the age of 10!
2. Put your child to sleep in the same place every night.
Whether your kiddo shares a room with a sibling, is still in your room, or has a space of their own, it’s important that you put your son or daughter to sleep in the same place every night (and for naps during the day as much as possible.) Putting your child to bed in a familiar place lets them know they are safe and that they are in a place where sleep is expected of them.
3. Create a predictable bedtime routine.
Consistency and predictability are extremely important to babies and toddlers. It creates a feeling of security and helps them learn and grow. When they know what to expect at bedtime, it makes it so much easier for them to make the transition from awake time to sleep time.
A good example of a bedtime routine might be something like this:
6:20 p.m. Bath time
6:35 p.m. Put on pajamas
6:40 p.m. Nursing or bottle if under 12 months. Note: Your baby SHOULD NOT fall asleep during this feed.
6:55 p.m. Story or songs
7:00 p.m. Into crib or bed AWAKE.
Your bedtime routine shouldn’t take more than 30-40 minutes and it’s VERY important that the routine is the exact same every single night. The repetition and predictability cue your child’s brain that sleep is soon coming.
4. Put your baby to bed AWAKE!
This right here is what makes ALL the difference. If you’ve been rocking, nursing, or laying with your child to help them fall asleep this is going to seem like a tough one… but it’s actually the most important step! It’s only by letting your baby fall asleep WITHOUT your help at bedtime that he or she can learn the skills necessary to go back to sleep on their own throughout when they (naturally) wake. Remember- EVERYONE wakes through the night, but when a child knows how to fall asleep on their own, they don’t need you to come into their room at night and help them get back to sleep.
5. If your baby wakes up during the night, wait a few minutes before intervening.
Everyone – babies and adults alike – will actually wake up several times every night. For most adults, these wakings are so brief that we don’t even remember them the next morning. However, many babies will immediately start to fuss or cry when they wake up, looking for you to put them back to sleep (just like you did at bedtime!).
If your child continues to fuss or cries more than a few minutes you can of course go to them. If your baby (6 months or younger) still needs a feed you can of course offer one, but be sure they stay awake the whole time.
If no feed is needed, then you can support your child to go back to sleep (maybe with some gentle pats) but they need to be doing the bulk of the work to get back to sleep, not you (just like at bedtime).
Change IS Possible
Remember, change takes time. While these tips can make all the difference in just one night, some kids (especially older ones) need more time. Changing a sleep habit is hard and can take 2-3 weeks of consistency in order to see positive change.
If these tips seem impossible to achieve (especially the part about going into bed awake), that’s what I’m here for. My passion (and my profession) is helping tired parents get their babies or big kids the sleep they so desperately need.
Not ready for full sleep training yet (which starts at 4+ months)? Follow me on social media for all the tips and tricks or check out my blog. If you have a newborn, check out my free newborn guide to help your family off to the best start possible.
Remember, good sleep really is possible and you don’t need to suffer the effects of sleep deprivation alone. Let me help lift this incredible weight from your shoulders.